New flights from low-cost airline Norwegian make a long weekend break to Miami financially feasible (from £159.90 one way or £275 return), and convenient flight times mean tourists can leave London on Friday mid-morning and enjoy two full days and nights in Miami, before arriving back at Gatwick at dawn on Monday. So, I’m on a mission to see if it’s possible to pack multiple decades into just a few days.
Little Havana: The Fifties fiesta
Once nothing more than a thoroughfare, Calle Ocho (158 SW 8th Street) – the heart of Little Havana – is now a popular tourist destination. Here the locals, who are largely of Latin American descent thanks to the arrival of tens of thousands of Cubans during the revolution years of the Fifties and Sixties, mix with visitors eager to take a step back in time.
There is an evergreen feeling to Little Havana.The octogenarian plodding opportunistically along the streets selling cones full of peanuts for a dollar has been doing so for decades, despite an apparent turf war with an entrepreneurial rival.
In El Exquisito (elexquisitomiami.com), we stop for a classic Cuban sandwich – slow-cooked pork which has been marinated in citrus juices, garlic, bell peppers and onion for two days, served with Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles and wedged between two slices of Cuban bread.
“A few years ago, this used to just be somewhere people passed through to get to Downtown,” Miami Culinary Tour guide Marie says. “But there is a lot more here. It’s more vibrant now.”
South Beach: The art deco masterpiece
South Beach is perhaps the best-known destination at the base of sunshine state Florida, with nearly three miles of golden sands bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
Its fine grains, warm waters and Instagram-ready lifeguard towers make it a haven for beach bums, fitness fanatics and artists, many eager to spot a famous face.
There are more than 800 art deco buildings around Miami Beach, including our hotel The Lennox. Originally opened in 1936 as the opulent Peter Miller Hotel, it lost its way and by 2010 it was abandoned.
A three-year, £53million renovation was completed in summer 2019, retaining many of its original art deco features, such as marble archways, with 119 stylishly decorated rooms and an outdoor pool. Perhaps its greatest drawcard remains its two-minute walk to South Beach.
Further inland, the cultural district of Wynwood is regarded as Miami’s next big development opportunity. A sprawling network of murals, breweries and multi-purpose tower blocks make it the city’s equivalent of London’s Shoreditch.
Key Biscayne: A timeless beauty
Back at ground level, naturalists with Miami EcoAdventures (miamiecoadventures.com) offer a different perspective of the area’s stunning cityscape, a 30-minute cab ride down from South Beach.
A two-and-a-half-hour kayak adventure along the stunning Key Biscayne costs $30/£23 and offers unrivalled views of Miami.
The tour doesn’t venture too far out into the North Atlantic, and it is still possible to make out the odd egret perching on wooden posts near the shore.
Wildlife is thriving in Key Biscayne, an environment protected from new industrial development. The tour, on tandem kayaks, represents a relatively tranquil paddle – depending on the energy levels of your co-pilot.
How to get there
Rooms at EAST, Miami (east-miami.com) start from £230 ($299) per night.
Rooms at The Lennox Hotel (lennoxmiamibeach.com) start from £175 ($225) per night.
Norwegian (norwegian.com/uk; 0330 828 0854) operates a non-stop flight from London Gatwick to Miami, operated by a fleet of brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Fares start from £159.90 one way and £275 return in LowFare economy, and from £499 one way and £940 return in Premium.